(Image credit: Getty Images)
In just the blink of an eye, the Premier League will be back – and this season could be the most competitive yet, particularly when you look at the battle for the Champions League spots.
While last year’s top four all listen to the Champions League anthem on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea will be watching with envy, having missed out on places in this year’s competition. Add them into the mix for qualification next time, and we could have the most exciting storyline of the season.
Rewind to last August, and almost every football fan would have predicted Liverpool to be either Premier League champions or runners-up to Manchester City. However, the Merseyside club stuttered through much of the campaign, unable to gain consistency until their final 10 matches, which saw them finish in fifth – the highest position they achieved all season.
It was the first time they failed to qualify for the Champions League in Jurgen Klopp’s seven full seasons in charge. Now, in a bid for a much improved campaign, they have addressed one of their problem areas quickly in the transfer window, signing World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, along with fellow midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai.
Much of the blame for their troubles last season was aimed at their midfield area, and it’s likely more business will be done before the deadline of September 1. Add to that the club’s enviable selection of fit-again attackers – Liverpool’s frontline includes Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo and Mo Salah – and there’s hope.
Spurs and Chelsea come into this season off the back of their worst campaigns for over a decade. Both under new managers, there’s a touch of the unknown for the two London clubs, and similarly, they mirrored each other by failing to qualify for European football at all this time around.
But in a season to reset, that might be a good thing. Without the added midweek games, there’s a belief it can keep the squad fresher and fully focused on domestic duties, making them fiercer competitors for the top spots. Whisper this quietly, but the last time Chelsea played a season without European football in 2016-17, they won the Premier League, under Antonio Conte.
Blues supporters will be optimistic that, surely, it can’t get any worse than last year. The start under Todd Boehly’s ownership has been chaotic, to say the least. A vast array of players signed, some for mind-blowing fees, and three different managers who all were unable – or weren’t given the opportunity – to figure out how to fit them all together.
So why will this season be different? Firstly, they’ve had a clear-out of players. There’s also no doubt about the talent in the squad. We’re still yet to see anywhere near the best of their landmark signings, such as Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk, and there will be more new acquisitions joining this summer. Chelsea will now hope that an organised, respected Mauricio Pochettino can mould them into a winning team again.
For the Argentine’s former club Spurs, it’s a first season in the Premier League for new boss Ange Postecoglou, after winning the title twice in two years at Celtic.
Tottenham were quick to act in the market, securing the shrewd £40m signing of James Maddison, who could be the creative spark they’ve been missing. When fit and at their best, Spurs’ attack could be a nightmare for defenders, especially in a progressive system under the Australian Postecoglou.
There is so much that can affect a team’s chances of success – who might get a little fortunate with injuries, and who else might arrive in this transfer window. Just look at Manchester United last season.
They started with two embarrassing defeats at home to Brighton and away at Brentford, but after adapting under new manager Erik ten Hag, then signing Casemiro and Antony later in the summer window, they ended up winning a trophy and sealing a top-four finish.
Along with the Red Devils, Newcastle are making their long-awaited return to the Champions League this term, Arsenal will hope to use last season’s pain and a new look midfield – Declan Rice included – to push them one step further, while Treble winners Manchester City always aim to set even higher standards each campaign.
With at least seven teams in contention for Champions League places this time around, the fight will be as intense as ever.
England manager Sarina Wiegman implemented some bonding methods for the England team that proved pivotal in the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 success
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